100 Greatest Songs of the 70’s #97 The Temptations – Ball of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)

Released: 1970

“Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration” went one of the lines in Motown supergroup The Temptations first single of the decade (Although it’s predecessor, Psychedelic Shack, had been released at the every end of December 1969). Carefully managed by Berry Gordy – as were all the label’s acts – to that point the quintet had been as wholesome as they come during a string of hits which had begun with The Way You Do The Things You Do six years previously, until time and taste rapidly began to catch up with them.

America entered the seventies at war both with communism and itself; as the civil rights movement gained increasing traction, a new generation of artists such as Sly & The Family Stone, Funkadelic and Jimi Hendrix spliced hard rock, fuzz pedals and psychedelia, creating a sound which made the balladry of the Temptations past seem like parents music.

Ace producer Norman Whitfield sprang into motion. His stock with Gordy had never been higher after working on the original version of Heard It Through The Grapevine for Gladys Knight, plus lead singer David Ruffin had left to be replaced by Dennis Edwards. His first effort was Cloud Nine, a turning of the page which dwelt on urban strife and domestic violence to a brooding wah-wah guitar and afro-inspired hand percussion.

They would later over compensate (And over elaborate) on the Blaxploitation-era Papa Was A Rolling Stone, however Ball Of Confusion was the formula in perfect balance; ghetto-born soul by the yard, street grit by the block and a portentous feeling of rebellion in the air. One thing was for certain: The Temptations made for the most unlikely revolutionaries.

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